Company Fined $1.5 Million for Hiring Minors to Clean “Skull-Splitters and Razor-Sharp Bone Saws”

One of the country’s largest food-safety sanitation companies was fined $1.5 million by the US Department of Labor (DOL) for hiring more than 100 minors in dangerous jobs at meat processing plants across the country.

Packers Sanitation Services Inc, or PSSI, was found to have employed children aged 13 to 17, some of whom worked overnight shifts, at 13 meat processing plants in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Texas over the last three years. 

The children were using caustic chemicals to clean “dangerous power-driven equipment, like skull-splitters and razor-sharp bone saws,” said Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator of the labor department’s Wage and Hour Division.

“These children should never have been employed in meat packing plants and this can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place,” Looman added. The department also said that at least three of the underage workers suffered burns from cleaning chemicals.

The civil penalties of $15,138 for each minor are the result of an investigation into the company that began summer of last year when department officials found 31 minors employed at three meat processing plants operated by JBS USA and Turkey Valley Farms in Nebraska and Minnesota. The department then launched a review of the records of the 55 plants where the company provided sanitation services and uncovered more cases of underage workers. 

Source: US Department of Labor

The department successfully obtained a temporary restraining order from a Nebraska court in November to stop PSSI from employing underage workers. In December, a federal judge ordered PSSI to ensure that the company followed child labor laws and would no longer hire minors illegally.

Gina Swenson, PSSI’s vice president of marketing said in a statement on Friday that the company has “a zero-tolerance policy against employing anyone under the age of 18.” She added that none of the minors identified in the investigation are still employed by the company, and that the labor department “has also not identified any managers aware of improper conduct that are currently employed” by PSSI.

Some states move to ease child labor regulations

It’s unclear how the minors, some as young as 13, were hired and allowed to work at these locations in the first place.

The tight labor market, as well as workers’ growing demands for higher pay to catch up with the soaring cost of living, is pushing Republicans in some states to propose changes to child labor laws.

Among these states are Iowa, Arkansas, and Minnesota, the latter two were among the eight states where PSSI employed underage workers at meat processing plants.

Information for this briefing was found via AP News, CBC News, Insider, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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